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The first day, in which the masters discuss power


It is a fine day. I'm glad you brought me. Looking down from here, I feel like the Christ brought to the mountaintop.

Which would make me the devil.

Would that not be a fair assessment?

Perhaps. What do you see?

Hills, farms, hedges. A village.

And further?

A town. The sea, maybe.

And further?

I can't really see any further. Why? Is this what you're offering, devil?

If you like.

It's hardly all the kingdoms of the world, is it?

It's not my fault if you can't see that far. So, do you want it?

What?

All this.

I can't say I see the point, really.

You want power, no?

I've always wanted power, yes, you know that. But not really over some fields.

What is this desire for power? It's the voice that says "I want more", no?

Well, yes, that voice is there, and yes, it's always saying just that, "I want more". But it isn't about possessing more things, well, not just about that. It's more than that. It was, well, there was always this nagging suspicion that I was being constrained, you know, that I didn't have enough space. I felt like I was being kept in a cell. I always wanted to break out. I'd put my back against one wall and my feet against the other wall and push, try and burst through the walls. And I couldn't get through of course. And I'd stick my ear to the wall and hear the people on the other side, and I'd hate them, really hate them, so much that I got a pain in my gut, because they were out there and I was in here. And I said "I want more", I want to be out there, and why am I stuck in here.

But now you're out there, right?

Well, I suppose in a way, I mean, I got to the people on the other side, I got to walk around with them.

And were you content?

No, never, never. I thought, well, why should I walk around with these people? Why should I look up at them? Shouldn't they look up at me? And so I grew, I grew until they were looking up at me, but it wasn't enough, I wanted more, I wanted to be so tall that they had to crane their necks to look at me. And then I thought, well, why should they look at me at all? And I built a tower, a tower so high that nobody could even see my face and I put brick on brick and made it higher and higher until the people were like ants below me. But I could never build it high enough, never. I still wanted more. And I saw the clouds and I wanted to touch them, but this time it wasn't like the wall of the cell, I just pushed straight through, and I saw the stars and I knew that I could never reach them, never.

And what happened then?

Well, that was the point when I just despaired, I suppose. That was when I knew, well, you've said it yourself, haven't you?

Yes: 'For all man grows, for all the cities man builds, for all the power man possesses, for all the women man gets, what is left? In the end, nothing.'

Right, right, except I didn't think it out like that, I didn't think anything at all, really. I was just gripped with fear, an overwhelming fear of death. I saw that certainty, and it made me physically sick. I could have power over all this world, I could make everyone in the world crane their necks, but it was only temporal power. It was wrapped up in time, and time would eventually unwrap it and lay it bare. And the tower started to break up, and the bricks fell, and I fell too, fell to the floor.

And then?

Well, I stood around for a bit. And then I started building again.

We should move on.


- Richard Francis Irvine